The Cassini spacecraft’s historic exploration is coming to an end this Friday, and as the craft dramatically dives into Saturn’s atmosphere, Cornell’s Department of Astronomy will host a community farewell celebration.
Cornell hosts the Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility (SPIF), and members of the team will be on hand Friday to talk about the Cassini project, according to a release. Todd Ansty, a member of the Cassini imaging team at Cornell, will offer reminiscences about working on the spacecraft, answer questions about instrumentation and share some Cassini’s discoveries about Saturn’s rings. The SPIF group will display images of Saturn and its moons on its “magic planet” globe, and SPIF manager Zoe Ponterio will answer Cassini questions.
“This has been literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to an interplanetary exploration mission,” said Ansty last week. “Planning observations and learning about Saturn’s rings, Titan’s atmosphere, and the shapes and surface features of many of Saturn’s small icy moons has been an unforgettable experience.”
The Cassini mission helped determine that two of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus and Titan, “could potentially have environments hospitable to life.” One reason the spacecraft will be crashed into Saturn is “to safeguard the environment on those moons, preventing any contamination by an encounter with Cassini and its Earth bacteria,” according to Cornell’s Department of Astronomy.
Community members are welcome to take part in the event, which starts at 7:30am Friday in 105 Space Sciences Building, near Cornell’s Bailey Hall. Cornell says NASA’s live feed of Cassini’s grand finale will begin just before 8am EDT. The event will end at about 8:30am.